On 31 December 2020 the UK moves to a new set of rules for unmanned aircraft. For many people the basic rules on their day-to-day flying won’t change but there are some important amendments that users need to be aware of.
The key elements of always keeping your drone in sight, not flying above 120m (400ft) and staying clear of airfield restricted areas (unless you have specific permission to use them) remain unchanged.
The new rules focus on the risk of the flight, based on the weight and type of the drone, and where it is being flown, to decide what you can do and whether you need a CAA authorisation for your flying.
This is a change from what we have currently where many of the requirements for needing permission are based on whether you are being paid to fly your drone, or if it has a camera fitted to it.
The new laws set out three categories of flying, and you must always operate within one of these.
Open– ‘basic flying’ which does not require an authorisation from the CAA;
Specific– more complex operations, which require an operational authorisation;
Certified– complex operations, which require the use of a certified UAS, operator, and a licenced remote pilot.
You can find details of these and other updates at www.caa.co.uk/drones
As well as being changed in the UK, the same new rules are also being introduced to EU countries so there will now be very similar rules across most of Europe.
Authorisation from the CAA
In most cases if you currently require a permission or exemption from the CAA for your flying, then its highly likely this will continue to be the case under the new rules. This is due to the rules on flying in proximity to people and overflight of congested areas rather than because you are making money from flying your drone. You can check when an authorisation is required and how to apply for one, in our publication at www.caa.co.uk/CAP722
Operators who hold a permission or exemption first issued before 31 December 2020 should note that, due to technical constraints, the requirement for their remote pilots to obtain a new Flyer ID set out in CAP 722 Annex B section B126.96.36.199 and B188.8.131.52 no longer applies. However, it is the responsibility of the operator to ensure that any remote pilot operating under their permission or exemption, is fully aware of the new regulations, and also holds a valid flyer ID.Read more on this
Registration and flyer renewalYour operator registration needs to be renewed every year. If you still use the email address that you registered with, we will send through a reminder to renew. You can also do this directly via the registration system. You will be able to renew via the My registration portal 21 days before your Operator ID expires.
If you are an organisation, please make sure you are registered as an organisation rather than an individual. If you have already renewed as an individual, but operate as an organisation, then next time you renew please do so as an organisation. After next year, if you are an authorisation holder (in the Specific Category) your Operator ID must be in the same name as the Operational Authorisation.
Your current flyer ID lasts for three years, but the new test based on the new rules will last for five years. When you renew this you will be asked to conduct the test under the rules in place at the time.
Although the rules are changing there is no need to re do this now but we do recommend that you check out the new regulations so you can be sure you are complying with the law.
You can see the new Drone and Model Aircraft Code at register-drones.caa.co.uk/drone-code
Drones under 250g
Previously, if you flew drones under 250g then you didn’t need to register as an operator. Under the new rules from 31 December 2020 if your drone is under 250g and has a camera then you will need to register as an operator and renew this annually. The only exception to this is for drones which are toys. The law doesn’t require you to also obtain a flyer ID but we strongly recommend that you do. It is free and gives you an overview of the rules to keep your flying safe and legal.
You can register and gain a flyer ID at Register-drones.caa.co.uk